1. Looking at your award letter, figure out which need-based loans you have been given and for what amounts.
2. After you look at your full financial picture-education cost, awarded aid, and family share-settle on an amount you actually need to borrow.
3. Never borrow more than you need. Remember, you’re not required to borrow the full amount of loan you’ve been offered or to borrow the maximum loan amount.
4. Don’t forget about student employment as an alternative for borrowing. Although working at a job can seem like an extra burden, so is struggling with high loan repayments after college.
5. Apply for your loan right away. You want to make sure that the loan is approved and the money paid to the college before you have to make your first student account payment.
6. Follow the loan application instructions carefully. Any mistakes you make will delay receipt of the funds.
7. For a Stafford or Direct Loan, be prepared for the amount that is paid to the college to be less than the amount for which you signed. A fee of 3 or 4 percent will be subtracted from the loan before the check is sent to your college.
8. Once you know the amount you’re borrowing, start to keep track of your “loan tab”-what your monthly repayment amount will be after graduation.
9. If you feel you need to borrow more than the amount that’s been offered in your award letter, talk with a financial aid counselor before taking on an additional loan.
10. If you do take on an additional, unsubsidized loan, consider making interest payments while in school. They won’t be much and will save you money-you’ll end up having to pay back significantly less than if you delay (and capitalize) the interest payments.